Ethiopia: West Will Need To Show ‘Tougher Love’ For Meles’ Successor


The West will need to show tougher love to his successor than it did to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died Monday, if one of its most important regional allies is to remain stable.

Ethiopia after Meles, the latest International Crisis Group briefing, analyses the profound national and regional consequences expected from the death of the man at the epicentre of his country’s life for more than two decades. Meles engineered one-man rule within the virtually one-party system of his Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), an ethnic party representing a minority group within an ethnically diverse country that co-opted other ethnic elites into the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). His successor will lead a weaker regime facing mounting grievances along ethnic and religious lines and a likely increase in radicalism. Without Meles, Ethiopia will struggle to control unrest that could easily spill across regional borders.


“Meles adroitly navigated a number of internal crises and kept the different TPLF factions under his tight control”, says Emilio Manfredi, Crisis Group’s Ethiopia Analyst. “Now that he’s gone, the weaknesses of the regime that he built are more likely to be exposed, and the repercussions could be felt across the region”.

Ethiopia’s ruling EPRDF came to power promising freedom, democracy and ethnic devolution, but it is dominated by the TPLF, and the regime has become highly centralised and repressive. Its elites tightly control the economy, and in recent years Meles relied ever more on repression to quell dissent by suppressing political, social, ethnic and religious liberties. This exacerbated divisions along ethnic and religious lines in the process, making the political system and society more unstable.

Given the opacity of the government and army, it is difficult to say what the new administration might look like or who might eventually lead it. Hailemariam Desalegn, the deputy prime minister named to carry on Meles’s functions, is not a Tigrayan and likely only a figurehead stop-gap. But it is probable the new government will be more fragile, the security forces more influential and internal stability endangered. The Tigrayan elite could be forced to use more repression to hold onto power and control other ethnic groups.

The regional implications are huge. Greater instability would threaten Ethiopia’s military interventions in Somalia and Sudan, exacerbate tensions with Eritrea and, more broadly, put in question its role as a key Western counter-terrorism ally in the Horn of Africa. If religious or ethnic radicalisation grows, the shockwaves could be felt across borders, with militants linking up with armed Islamist groups elsewhere.

The international community, particularly Ethiopia’s main allies, the U.S., UK and EU, should seek to influence the new transition by making political, military and development assistance dependent on an end to repression, the opening of political space and democratic reforms. They should encourage the new leadership to draw up a clear roadmap for an all-inclusive, peaceful transition, with free and fair elections held within a limited timeframe. They should also help members of the Ethiopian opposition to return from abroad so they can better represent their constituencies, both in the country and in the diaspora.

“The international community mostly turned a blind eye to Meles’s authoritarian actions and growing dissent in the country”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director. “Now it must push the ruling party to revive the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution and promote inclusive reforms as the only way to ensure Ethiopia’s internal security and durable development and the region’s fragile stability”.

8 thoughts on “Ethiopia: West Will Need To Show ‘Tougher Love’ For Meles’ Successor

  • August 24, 2012 at 9:56 am

    He is the engineer and architecture of all kinds of development that emerge in Ethiopia. My sorrow is great for Meles b/c he didn’t rest for a second for himself and for his family; instead he secrified his life like a melting candle to bring light,democracy and development by combating poverty.I am proud of him if it was posible, I would have exchange my life for him. He deserve to be honored.

  • August 24, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    I am overwhelmed to see the whole Ethiopians mourning and wailing to show their great love to PM Meles Zenawi; indeed he was such extraordinary person who changed the life of many poor citizens with his integrity, strong and intellectual leadership which every country wishes him to be their leader.

  • August 25, 2012 at 11:18 am


    I have nothing more to say but I guess you are one of those Tigrians who suck the blood of poor Ethiopians. Otherwise, you know what Meles did to thousands of innocent citizens in Oromia, Ogadenia, Sidama, Gambella,…etc. So many people were killed in streets like dogs just for asking their constitutional rights! You know that very well…but your belly comes before your mind that is why your praise your leader!

    Second…do not be fool. The people you see mourning Meles were forced to do so by Kebele leaders. If they do not do so, they will not get wheat,oil, sugar, soap…etc which are rationed at the Kebele offices.

    I am not happy that Meles is dead but I am very sad for the people who he killed in streets…. thousands of people!

    • August 25, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      Blind and hate based opinion doesn’t bring any solution at all. you judged to be Tigrai although I am not, but I don’t suppress the thruth what so ever. I is a witness to see the whole Ethiopian mouring and wailing for the loss of their beloved leader PM Meles Zenawi. We also witnes the nation earnestly request their government to follow the strategy and plan of PM Melses Zenawi. What more evidence do you need if the nation support the government. I think you need to think twice with a right mind.
      Any chaotic movement that aim to over throw the government by force and by reversing the truth is not going to succeed. Ehiopia is one of the democratic nation, and like others democratic country, it wouldn’t allow unrestrained terroristic movement that aim to steer up the nation and distract the peace of the country, and the government has the responsibility to stop it and to protect the country from such extravagant and chaotic demonstration or movement.

    • August 25, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Oh my goodness, are you saying the people were forced to cry. This is also one of the blind view of the so called oppositions; how do you justify your lies when we see those who didn’t even able to express the deep sorrow because of their great diappointment of lossing such great leader by saying that they would have given my life in exchange if the amount of of tears they shade could bring Meles to life.

  • August 25, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Blindly judging other based on hatred doesn’t bring solution. you judged to be Tigrai although I am not, but I don’t suppress the thruth what so ever, and the whole Ethiopian who live in their country witnessed the skillfull and rightfull leader ship of PM Melses Zenawi as they earnestly request the government to follow the plan and strategy of PM Meles Zenawi. What more do you need more than this; if the nation support the government what more evidence do you need more than the witness of the nation itself. I think you need to understand one thing; any chaotic movement that aim to over throw the government by force or by reversing the truth is not going to succeed, and since Ehiopia is one of those democratic nation, it wouldn’t allow unrestrained terroristic movement that steer up the nation and distract the peace of the country, and the government has the responsibility to protect the country from such extravagant and chaotic demonstration or movement.

  • August 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    How can anybody body be forced to cry; do you really think people cannot see the difference when someone is genuinely sad….what a stupid thing to say

    My point to you is that.

    • Yes we love Meles
    • Yes he was the best we ever had
    • Yes the truth came out – that is we love him and we love him more now
    • Yes he was a great leader whom we are call him our hero
    • Yes he was the best diplomatic – gaining praises from likes of Obama, Clinton and Cameron to say the least
    • Yes Ethiopia is a better place because of him

    NOW BEAT IT!! If we are sad we show it; if we are happy we show it –human ‘s emotions cannot be controlled by anyone.

    Whatever he did; whatever decisions he made was to keep the paece together. If he didn’t take action while in power then who will???????


  • September 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    The saddest thing of all is to learn that PM Meles Zenawi death due to the fact that some anti-africa development called CIA who couldn’t handle the intellictual Zenawi’s leadership. Meles was too smart for western who want to remain Africa as backward and undeveloped.


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